Dave’s post on grammar made me think. (Dave, I’ll get you for that. It hurts.) I’d been a law school administrator in recent years before going back this year to teaching college writing (supposedly I’m retired, but I’ve been working part-time at four different schools) and I’ve begun to wonder if I should just stop correcting certain grammar errors that still drive me crazy.
When I first taught, in the ’70s, I used to correct “who” and “whom” all the time. I stopped. Now I correct only when students use “whom” when they mean “who,” not the other way around. I still use it sometimes because I’m old, but basically I favor whom‘s doom.
But I’ve still been correcting the pronoun shift in the title of this post: a writer will start with the singular anyone, everyone, someone, anybody, or the ubiquitous a person and then she will invariably use the plural personal pronoun they, them, their later in the sentence.
Should I just leave it alone?
How about the use of you in a sentence like this:
In my high school you had to work very hard to get good grades.
I always write something like, “I didn’t go to your high school. Use you only when addressing the reader.”
(I also would like to have a quarter for every time I correct the placement of the close quotation mark and the period or the incorrect use of its, it’s, its’ [sic] and i’ts [really sic].)
We’re talking about formal expository essays, business letters, argumentative writing, not narratives. Am I being an old fart to correct a person/their and the general you?
© 2007, Richard Grayson. All rights reserved.